In the shootout that took the life of a North Highlands pharmacy store clerk, one bullet tore the tip off the ring finger of a man's left hand.
Sheriff's detectives ran the print. They said it came back to a man named Kelvin Arnell Peterson. On Wednesday, Peterson sat at the defense table in a Sacramento courtroom and rubbed his bald head with a left hand that was missing two fingertips.
Deputy District Attorney Scott Triplett told a Sacramento Superior Court jury in his opening statement he will present Peterson's hand as one piece of evidence in an "overwhelming" case authorities have amassed against the 43-year-old defendant.
Peterson will be joined at the defense table by co-defendant Bernard Krungerrun Reed, 35. Both are charged with murder in the shooting death of Tania Gurskiy, 27. She was gunned down Sept. 2, 2010, in the robbery of a Rexall pharmacy in the 5600 block of Watt Avenue.
According to the prosecutor, Gurskiy was killed in the gunfight that broke out between the robbers and the son of the pharmacy owner.
"It's chaos at that point," Triplett told the jury, in the courtroom of Judge Troy L. Nunley. "Kelvin Peterson decides he's going to shoot his way out." He was "blind firing" around corners, "firing without regard to human life," Triplett said of Peterson. Then, "he hits Tania Gurskiy almost point-blank in the left ear."
Gurskiy was transported to Mercy San Juan Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead.
The prosecutor's description of the shooting generated sobs from Gurskiy's mother. She sat with about nine young people in two rows of the courtroom for the trial, which is expected to last about a week.
Triplett said the fatal robbery followed a stickup Peterson pulled at the same North Highlands Rexall less than three weeks earlier.
Acting alone on Aug. 13, 2010, Peterson walked in while the Okimoto family, which has operated the store for decades, cashed out, Triplett said, producing a note demanding money and the powerful pain-killing opioid, OxyContin.
In the aftermath of the August robbery, Triplett said, Derrick Okimoto, son of the drugstore owner, installed four additional video surveillance cameras on top of the four already in place. He also purchased a 9 mm Glock, according to the prosecutor.
When Peterson returned on the day of the killing, Triplett said, he brought along a companion whom the prosecutor identified as Reed. Derrick Okimoto said to himself, "Oh my God, he's back," according to the prosecutor, as Peterson handed an employee another note that said, "We want allll (800) Oxycotton. We will kill you," Triplett told the jury.
Armed with a handgun, the robber again demanded "all the Oxy." He grabbed money off a counter and threatened to kill. Derrick Okimoto told the gunman to put his weapon down. Instead, Peterson "escalates it up another notch, one scary notch," Triplett said by putting the gun to the head of Okimoto's elderly father, Tom.
"Derrick said he thinks his father is going to get executed right him front of him," the prosecutor said.
The son then surreptitiously retrieved his recently purchased Glock, aimed it at the lower back of Peterson and pulled the trigger, according to Triplett.
"The gun just clicks," Triplett said.
Startled, the gunman fired wildly, before Derrick Okimoto finally got his gun to work, and the shootout tore through the store. The prosecutor told jurors that while one bullet killed Gurskiy, another struck the foot of an eight-month pregnant female employee.
That night, when detectives scoured the pharmacy for evidence, they found the fingertip. Two days later, authorities arrested Peterson in a North Sacramento apartment at Beaumont and Bowles streets.
"It's pretty obvious he's missing the tip of the ring finger on his left hand," Triplett said. "Later on in court, we'll get to see Mr. Peterson's hand, and you'll see he's missing the tips of two fingers on his left hand."
Much of the shootout was captured on the pharmacy's video surveillance system. Triplett told the jury it will see and hear the gunbattle on tape, and "you will see footage of Kelvin Peterson," as well as his much shorter partner.
Co-defendant Reed, the prosecutor said, grabbed money out of the cash register and ran out of the store when the shooting started, according to Triplett. Reed was taken into custody eight days later at a motel in Reno.
Triplett said Reed and Peterson exchanged an estimated 100 cellphone communications in the 10 days before the robbery. He said a search of Reed's laptop also showed its user checking local news sites for stories on the pharmacy killing.
Reed's attorney, Paul Irish, said the pictures will be unclear when it comes to identifying his client. Irish said he also will put on witnesses who will testify the smaller robber is not Reed.
"Keep an open mind and reserve judgment until you hear the whole case," Irish asked the jury.
Peterson's attorney, Greg Foster, did not make an opening statement. Foster declined after Wednesday's court session to discuss his client's defense.